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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Awards

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Peter Olson Daniel NiemelaPeter "Pekka" Olson (l) and Daniel Niemela (r).

Niemela learns to carve from Olson
Apprentice Daniel Niemela learns to carve from master carver Pekka Olson, May 2010..

Trees carved by Daniel Niemela
Trees by apprentice Daniel Niemela.
All photos by LuAnne Kozma

Peter Olson and Daniel Niemela
2010 master artist and apprentice
Tapiola/Chassel (Keewenaw County)
woodcarving and cedar fan carving

A self-described treehugger, Peter “Pekka” Olson began his “love for wood” through his father who was of Finnish and Swedish descent. Together they made many of their own tools, such as hay rakes, handles, door latches, and hazelnut brooms as well as toys, such as wooden whistles, rifles, and sling shots. Pekka learned the Scandinavian woodcarving crafts of fan birds from several Upper Peninsula carvers and recently took a trip to Finland to learn from a carver there how to make boats, trees, and Finnish styles of carved birds.  He is passing on these carving traditions, woods lore, and Finnish and family lore to 14-year-old apprentice Daniel Niemela, also of Chassell, Michigan, who wants to become an accomplished woodcarver. During the apprenticeship Daniel is learning to carve birds, whistles, Finnish rocking men toys, boats, cedar baskets, cedar Christmas trees, and spoons. Much more than sharing just the carving knowledge, Pekka is imparting his wisdom about the woods, showing Daniel how to choose and fell the trees, teaching some Finnish language, and some of the stories and customs of Daniel’s grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s heritage. “He will never see the forest the same way again,” says Pekka. “There’s no limit to what we can make out of the forest.”

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